Got chicken?

Libya, May 4, 2011

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  <span class="field-credit">
    Mercy Corps  </span>
    Mercy Corps' Jill Morehead (right) talks with a Libyan farmer about the challenges of raising chickens during the country's ongoing conflict and crisis. Dwindling chicken feed supplies are driving up prices, making life harder for farmers and consumers alike. Photo: Mercy Corps

Two weeks ago, we walked into the grocery store here in Benghazi, Libya to look for chicken.

There was a large pile of frozen chicken in the corner, and when we questioned the price, we were told it was 6 dinars (about US$5) per kilogram (2.2 pounds), up from 4.5 dinars (US3.77). Today, chicken is 8 dinars (US$6.71) per kilo, nearly double the price before the conflict.

High prices are taking their toll in a conflict-stricken country where unemployment was already hovering around 30 percent, making it harder for families to put food on the table. Ask anyone in the store or anyone on the street if there is a shortage of chicken and they will all tell you yes. “Our family eats chicken nearly everyday, but the rising prices are hard on other families," one person told me. "I know there are people who are struggling. The problem is that there isn’t any food for the chicks.”

I visited the largest chicken farm in the country and was told that, in November, there were 740 tons of frozen chicken in their storage. Now there are fewer than five. Stock and supplies are running out.

At a smaller private farm, they showed me the feed available for their chickens: not enough to last till the end of May. Many smaller farms have already gone out of business.

At Al Brukee farms, their chickens used to lay an egg per day. As we walked down the line, he pointed out how many fewer eggs were being produced, “See here? Only three eggs. One. Two. Three.”

Mercy Corps is working with these chicken farmers to try to find a short-term solution for the chicken feed shortage, in order to ensure that people are able to find affordable chicken available on the market and to support the local chicken market. I learned more about chicken feed in the last two weeks than I ever thought I would know.